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Your students don’t know how to re-engage


February 29, 2024 | 5 min read |

A new playbook shows how the library can bring the spark back to world-weary universities


Adjusting to the pandemic was a challenge for nearly everyone, as the world changed literally over the course of a few days. In the academic world, learning suffered as students shifted from in-person to remote classrooms. In the U.K., 74% of university students reported that Covid-19 had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. In the U.S., a report from the CDC noted two-thirds of students found it difficult to complete their schoolwork.


As it turns out, returning to “normal” college life post-pandemic isn’t easy either. According to a survey conducted by Times Higher Education, 76% of faculty have seen lower numbers of students showing up for class. Among those who do turn up, faculty report startling levels of disengagement.


“More than a few of my students exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder,” writes Steven Mintz, Professor of History at University of Texas at Austin, in an article for Inside Higher Ed. “Many more show symptoms of cognitive detachment and have disconnected mentally and emotionally from their schoolwork and often their classmates.”


A 2022 survey confirms their reports: 55% of undergraduate and 38% of graduate students said they find it difficult to remain interested in their classes and have trouble retaining the material they learn.


While many universities offer guidance and empathy to students who are struggling, the challenge to re-engage students in their studies falls largely on the shoulders of faculty.


 Carrying the weight of a significant demand

Tending to the needs of disengaged students is exhausting for an already exhausted group: faculty. A survey by the Healthy Minds Network found that 64% of faculty feel “burned out because of work.” Not surprisingly, burnout at four-year institutions, where faculty balance research with teaching, is significantly higher (69%) than at community colleges (57%).


The survey also reveals the impact student disengagement has taken on faculty. More than 70% of respondents reported having “had one-on-one conversation/s with a student about their mental or emotional health in the past year.” Nearly half of faculty said that supporting student emotional needs took a toll on their own mental health.


Reddit subgroups for faculty reveal the added pressure of trying to engage students. Posters bristle about the “helpful” advice to engage students that range from superhuman – “spend time 1:1 with every student” – to the vague or superficial – “don’t be boring,” and “tell some jokes to spice up your lectures.”


Importantly, most faculty remain optimistic about their roles. According to the Healthy Minds Network survey two-thirds of faculty are satisfied with their jobs and nearly 90% feel “confident and capable.”


If that’s the case, then what faculty need is support and concrete ways to re-invigorate student interest.

So, what are students passionate about?

A number of surveys suggest that the solution to energizing students about their studies is to relate learning to things they care about. An obvious choice might be to connect classroom work to real-world career experiences. But that advice comes with a caveat: there’s been a dramatic rise in the percentage of students who are unsure of their career choice: from 9% in 2021 to 22% in 2022.

Further, faculty don’t always guess correctly about what drives career choices. The same survey that revealed ambivalence about careers, showed a disconnect between faculty beliefs about students’ career choices (they want high incomes) and students’ actual aspirations (they want to make a positive difference).

Faculty need help in assessing what’s important to students and that’s where the library can step in.


How can the library actively enrich the teaching and learning experience?

Libraries are in a unique position to support faculty in finding this answer and supporting the university students. They are the core of the university – the heart of research, teaching and learning – with the power to reach virtually every student and faculty member.

Ex Libris integrated library system, part of Clarivate is providing a free playbook that shows how librarians can leverage that central role to identify, shape and promote engagement opportunities.


The playbook includes a four-step plan that helps librarians:

  • Gather information data about what students care about
  • Use target marketing to connect with students
  • Connect the dots between students, student services and faculty
  • Measure and communicate results


Unlocking student engagement: Your easy-to-use playbook

By serving as the connector between students and the services that help them thrive, libraries can actively engage students and help get them over the graduation finish line. Download the playbook today and learn how to leverage data, support colleagues in other departments and use library tools to help students re-engage with their studies.


Don’t miss out on this opportunity to stay ahead of the curve and provide top-notch service to your users. Download the playbook now!

Explore more about the Leganto list management system here.